Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Fortnite of Fitness


While Peloton pedals toward an IPO, a growing number of digital fitness and connected equipment companies are trying to keep pace. Meanwhile, Zwift is charting its own path as the pioneer of fitness-gaming. 

What it is: With elements of fitness, esports, and social networking, Zwift is creating a virtual world where people exercise, connect, and compete. To date, the five-year-old startup has raised $170M funding and built a loyal following among cyclists. Now, Zwift aims to create the Fortnite of Fitness, setting its sights on new modalities (like running), as well as aspirations of becoming an Olympic sport. 

  • More than 1.1M have registered for a $15/month Zwift account
  • Since the launch of its paid service three years ago, Zwift has been growing 2.5x YOY
  • Zwift cyclists have logged more than 200M miles 
  • The company has worldwide users in 150+ countries
How it works: Unlike companies like Peloton or Hydrow, Zwift does not manufacture connected equipment. Instead, riders hook their own bicycle up to a trainer that’s used to measure performance metrics like power and exertion. Then, those metrics are input into Zwift’s virtual world as users participate in races or group rides. 

The whole thing looks (and feels) a lot like a cycling video game, except you’re really riding. And you’re really competing against other cyclists. This social gaming experience led The Guardian to described Zwift as “sweaty E-sports”.

A race to the top. While onlookers tend to view Zwift and Peloton as competitors jostling for an edge, Zwift doesn’t see it that way. 

According to Zwift’s PR manager Chris Snook, the Peloton comparison gets raised a lot. But, in an email exchange, Snook went on to tell us that Zwift’s gamified, virtual experience is fundamentally different than Peloton’s streaming classes. He also pointed out that the two companies are geared towards different users. While Peloton is focused on the general fitness market, Snook described Zwift’s target market as “enthusiast cyclists, runners, and triathletes.” 

This description fits with how Zwift’s CEO Eric Min distinguishes his company from other on-demand or connected equipment companies. In an interview with TechCrunch, Min said Zwift is focused on cyclists while Peloton is focused on “spinners”. Min went on to say that anyone focused on video content “can have that.” 

Zwift, on the other hand, aspires to be the leader in fitness gaming, “creating 3D worlds using a gaming environment to create unique social and competitive experiences.” Achieving that goal includes esports, the Olympics, and going beyond cycling. 
  • Zwift already has a running experience. Next, Min has said the company could get into rowing, strength training, and even establish brick-and-mortar studios. 
  • As Snook told us via email, Zwift is the only company getting “real professional athletes to compete on a digital esports platform…” 
  • The company launched the KISS Super League and will use a portion of its $120M funding round to grow esports.
  • By 2028, Zwift plans to become an Olympic sport. 
Zooming out: Ultimately, Zwift wants to become the world’s most affordable and accessible sporting platform. While viewing each of their various ambitions as isolated initiatives confuse that goal, analyzing each move as part of a strategic roadmap helps bring Zwift’s vision into focus. 

By initially targeting cyclists, triathletes, and runners, the company has created a cult-like following among athletes who use Zwift to race and train. Doubling-down on this user-base, Zwift established a competitive league that goes further in attracting world-class talent while also spawning a full-fledged spectator sport. 

Next, leveraging the fact that the world’s best cyclists use the platform, Zwift hopes to justify its merit as an Olympic sport. And if it becomes an Olympic sport, the company believes it will have the momentum and distribution to make its platform more widely available while also catapulting fitness gaming into the mainstream.  

With this context, Zwift’s plan looks more precise and somewhat familiar. Much like a high-end brand that launches a premium price point before introducing more reasonably priced products down the road, Zwift is courting premium users (professional athletes) in hopes of building an elite product (competitive leagues/Olympic sports) before eventually backing into the general fitness market. 

This goal feels audacious, but it’s not entirely unheard of. CrossFit, for one, has already executed a similar strategy. By catering to elite exercisers, CrossFit’s empire is now built around professional athletes, sanctioned competitions, and endorsement deals. Its gyms are a feeder for its competitive ranks, while its pro athletes and televised competitions are a flywheel for its gyms. 

Full-circle: In Zwift’s case, though, with a similar feeder and flywheel in place, no gyms or trainers required, and more accessible forms of exercise—like cycling or running—to choose from, the world’s most accessible and affordable sporting platform begins to take shape. It’s a future where, if Zwift’s CEO Eric Min has his way, the next generation of gamers will actually be competitive cyclists who choose Zwift over Fortnite.

Headlines & Happenings

🚲 Mid-market Peloton 

Continuing the connected fitness conversation, Echelon Fit—a Peloton-like equipment and content company—received a growth capital investment form North Castle Partners, a private equity firm known for health- and fitness-related investments like Barry’s Bootcamp, Equinox, SLT, and Brooklyn Boulders. 

What it is: Echelon launched with a smart bike and streaming classes. Now, the company is building out an equipment and content ecosystem. 

  • Echelon offers two models of its bike, ranging from $800–$1600 compared to Peloton’s $2200–$2700 pricepoint. 
  • Echelon Reflect is the company’s Mirror competitor — a wall-mounted LED screen and interactive fitness system. 
  • FitPass is the company’s take on Daily Burn or Peloton Digital — live and on-demand fitness classes, including yoga, meditation, strength training, cardio, and more. 
  • The company also has a brick-and-mortar fitness studio in Chattanooga, Tennessee that doubles as a production studio. 
  • Echelon is available on QVC and Amazon, plus through Sam’s Club, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and more. 

Why it matters: From budget gyms to studios and connected equipment to on-demand content, innovation is remaking the fitness industry. Peloton’s success validated the market; now, we’ll see who and what has staying power. In the near term, expect to see a movement away from standalone products like a bike, rower, or treadmill as companies seek to capture a broader base of customers by building complete equipment and content ecosystems.

🏥 The doctor will see you now

A few months back, in a Fitt Insider article, we explored the topic of DTC healthcare companies like Hims asking: “Are ED pills the future of healthcare?” While these companies initially came to market offering products like generic Viagra, hair loss treatment, and beta blockers, they’ve been adamant that their ambitions are much, much bigger.  

As Hims CEO Andrew Dudum put it: “We want to be the single brand for men’s and women’s health that can consult you, so you can be proactive about healthcare… We think what we’re building is a $10-20 billion company in the next few years, not a DTC brand that gets picked up by a big CPG company.” 

Now, with a series of key hires, Hims is proving that it’s serious about building a comprehensive healthcare platform. 

  • Dr. Pat Carroll left Walgreens to become the Chief Medical Officer at Hims 
  • Chris Massey will head up government relations at Hims, departing a similar role at Square
  • Blain Rethmeier is leaving Ditto PR to join Hims as VP of public affairs

Takeaway: From ED pills to healthcare provider, Hims plans to use personal care products to acquire customers while building a full-fledged healthcare platform. Now, with tens of millions of customers, a billion-dollar valuation, and a new batch of talent, it’s time to see if they can pull it off.


  • lululemon’s new 20,000 sq. ft. Chi-town store has a fitness studio, restaurant, and more. 
  • Perfect Day launched lab-grown ice cream that’s DNA-identical to dairy. 
  • Outdoor Voices and Peloton teamed up for a limited-edition apparel collection. 
  • WIT Fitness is the new global e-commerce partner for CrossFit. 
  • Phuture Foods is working on a plant-based pork substitute. 

💰 Money Moves

Echelon Fit, a Peloton-like connected fitness company, received a growth capital investment from North Castle Partners. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Speaking of North Castle Partners, the firm also invested in CR Fitness, a franchisee group of Crunch Fitness gyms in the Southeast. 

NUGGS, a vegan chicken nugget startup, landed a $7M investment led by industry giant McCain Foods

Kencko, makers of powdered fruit and vegetable packets, raised $3.4M in seed funding.

Mahmee, a maternal and infant health tech startup, closed $3M in seed funding from Serena Williams and Mark Cuban, among other investors. 

Wahoo, maker of connected fitness devices will acquire The Sufferfest, a training platform for cyclists, triathletes, and endurance athletes.

TreeHouse Foods—one of the biggest manufacturers and distributors of private label healthy snacks in North America—sold its snacks division to Atlas Holdings for $90M.

Heavenly Rx, a hemp and CBD portfolio company of SOL Global Investments, purchased 25% stake in Jones Soda.


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